Chapter 13 - Commentary on Luke's Gospel

13:1-9 Repentance in the light of the judgment on Jerusalem - The terrible news of disasters in Jesus' day is hardly different from the television coverage of our day. When Pilate was angry with the Galileans who came to Jerusalem he mixed their blood with the sacrifices they were offering. And eighteen people were killed when a tower collapsed on them. But much more serious than the death of individuals is the fate of a nation that is leading an empty fruitless life and rejecting their own Messiah.

13:1 Sacrifice could only be offered in the temple of Jerusalem, and Pilate had no authority in Galilee but he may have been insulted or slighted on a visit there. The group of Galileans had come to celebrate the Passover, and they would have been killed by Roman soldiers. The eating of blood was forbidden (Leviticus 3:17, 7:26-27) so the priests would drain the blood from the Passover lambs before they were taken to be eaten by the family. So Pilate's act would have been particularly abhorrent to Jesus' hearers. This incident may have caused enmity between Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee and Pilate (23:12).

13:2-3 Jesus made clear that the death of these Galileans was no evidence that they were particularly sinful. The word repentance means turning to God, and here Jesus is beginning to warn his hearers of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in that generation (see comment on 11:32, 21:20-24). Those who had become disciples, and heeded Jesus' warning (Matthew 24:15-18, Mark 13:14-16), all escaped the terrible siege and destruction of the city, and became the leaders of the first Christian churches.

13:4-5 Similarly the death of eighteen persons in the collapse of the tower of Siloam (near the pool of Siloam, John 9:7-11, at the south end of the city walls) was an accident which was nothing to do with their sinfulness. In our day we must never assume that natural disasters are caused by the sin of the people involved (see John 9:2-3). On the other hand it is true that God may allow things to go wrong in our life to bring us to our senses (see comment on 12:20). And both these events should have served as warnings of the impending end of the city.

13:6-7 Jesus goes on to illustrate the need for national repentance before it is too late by the parable of the fig tree in a vineyard (as in Matthew 3:10 where John the Baptist is obviously referring to the Jewish religious establishment).. A fig tree was often planted to provide shade for workers in the vineyard as well as yielding figs in season. Jesus often compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a vineyard (Matthew 20:1, 21:28, 33-41, Mark 12:1-11), as did the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 5:1-7) and here the fig tree might suggest the religious establishment in Jerusalem. It is meant to provide sweet fruit for the nation, but it is in danger of being cut down (11.50, 20:9-16).

13:8-9 Jesus' loving concern for Jerusalem comes later in the chapter (13:34). The destruction of the city was delayed forty years to give the religious leaders time to turn to God and yield their proper fruits (see 20:9-16, Matthew 21:34, Mark 12:2).

13:7-9 God is very patient, but the refusal of the Jewish people to turn to God, and bring forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit, will eventually have the bad consequences in AD 70 that Jesus is now predicting (see 13:2-3, 34-35, 20:20-21, Matthew 23:35-36).

13:10-14 This section comes only in Luke, and he must have heard of the incident in his personal investigations (see note on 1:3). As an example of the terrible inhumanity of synagogue religion (13:14) there is the complaint about the healing of a woman on the Sabbath day who had been crippled and bent over for 18 years. The three steps in her healing are first she is called over to Jesus's side (rather than Jesus going over to her). Then she is told "you are already set free"(a perfect passive) from the cause of your paralysis. But it is only when Jesus laid hands on her that she was able to stand up straight.

13:15-16 Again Pharisee hypocrisy (as in 12:1) is exposed. They all knew they watered their ox or donkey on the Sabbath day. And this woman was not just an ordinary crippled human but a daughter of Abraham (see John 8:39, 56).

13:17 This was a victory for humane morality over religious bigotry, and the crowd was delighted, but the opponents who were publicly put to shame would take their revenge. Luke has a thread of mounting conflict with the religious opposition (5:30, 6:2, 7, 11:15, 38, 42, 53 ), which will culminate in the crucifixion Jesus had predicted (see note on 9:22).

13:18-19 In spite of opposition the Kingdom of God will grow from very small beginnings in the Jewish garden. Perhaps Jesus was thinking of the birds as the nations of the world. "Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind" (Ezekiel 17:23, see Daniel 4:12, 21).

13:20-21 In spite of opposition the Kingdom of God will permeate Jewish society like the small quantity of leaven needed for a large batch of dough (Genesis 18:6, the amount Sarah used to entertain her guests).

13:22 Jesus now moves systematically through the towns and villages on his way to Jerusalem where he knows he will be crucified (see note on 9:22), and the city and its temple will be destroyed in that generation (11:51, 21:32)..

13:23-24 The tense is a present participle, properly translated "Lord, are those that are being saved few?" Jesus's answer to the question about salvation is not referring to our eternal salvation, as if we have to "strive to enter"(see Mathew 7:13-14, which is in the context of the false teachers in Matthew 7:15). He has already explained the need to turn to God (see the comments on "repent" in 13:3, 5) in view of the looming disaster which the city and its religious establishment will face.

13:25 When the door is shut it will be too late (as in Matthew 25:10). Again this does not suggest that God ever shuts the door into heaven. The shutting refers to the nation. The parable of the wise and foolish lamp-bearers at the wedding (Matthew 25:1-10) is connected with the Lord's coming in the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-2, 30, 37, 42).

13:26-27 When it is already too late the Jewish leaders will remember that Jesus lived among them for thirty years (see Matthew 7:22-23, which refers to false prophets).

13:28-30 Compare the contrast between the new believers from all nations and the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" of "the heirs of the kingdom" (Matthew 8:11-12). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets recognized the Lord, King, Messiah of the Old Testament, but the Jewish leaders had rejected him. And now people from all nations will become part of his Kingdom (as in Matthew 8:11, 24:31). The eating will be symbolized by their eating together at the Lord 's table. And the very people who had been considered by the Jewish leaders the least worthy of God's blessing suddenly come to prominence in the Messiah's church.

13:31-32 The Pharisees now try to turn Jesus aside from his mission by claiming that Herod wanted to kill him. This is a common intimidating tactic (Nehemiah 6:13). Jesus has no doubt that he will in due course be crucified in Jerusalem, but that can only occur in God's appointed time (see note on 9:22, 44).

13:33-34 Again Jesus turns his thoughts to Jerusalem (as in 9:51, 13:22). He is conscious of that city's killing of prophets that God has sent (Matthew 23:34-36).. Again and again he has wished he could gather its people like a hen gathering her chicks under her wing (the same words as in Matthew 23:37), but this loving invitation has been rejected (see his weeping in 19:41).

13:35 The destruction of the Jewish house (home) was already on the horizon. There would still be a period of 40 years to give them a final opportunity to repent (see13:3, 5) before the appointed end in that generation (9:27, Matthew 23:36, 24:33). The end (as it happened in AD 70) would be by the coming of the Messiah in judgment (21:27, Matthew 24:29-30, using exactly the same language as his coming to destroy Babylon, Isaiah 13:9-13). These verses about the Messiah's coming do not refer to a future second coming, but to the Lord's coming to judge Jerusalem (21:27-28, compare the word "coming" in Matthew 24:3, 27, 30, 37, 42, 44, 50, Mark 13:24-26, 35-36).

Chapter 14 .....